At his post-spending spree press conference last week, Bruins GM Don Sweeney made a comment that seemed innocuous at the time, but is a bit more troubling given recent events.
“As you can see from several of the signings and the approach that we took, the center ice position...a little bit by committee,” he said on Wednesday. “We’re going to have to do that and allow some players to get into spots and hopefully perform to the level that they’re capable of.”
At the time, many of us (myself included) thought “yeah whatever, David Krejci will be back so I’m not too worried about the committee. Depth is good.”
Now, however, with Krejci’s Friday announcement looming large, the Bruins are currently facing the daunting prospect of using a “committee” to replace the most gifted playmaker they’ve had in nearly two decades.
With Krejci in the mix, Wednesday’s signings looked like Sweeney’s attempt at overhauling and solidifying the bottom six.
Without Krejci, Wednesday’s signings look like an attempt at replacing a top-flight second-line center with a handful of third/fourth-line centers.
Sweeney’s Wednesday signings were made in the name of versatility: Nick Foligno can play all three forward roles, Tomas Nosek can play center up and down the lineup, etc.
Versatility is all well and good when you’re trying to complement the top two lines; instead, the Bruins are left with a situation where the first line might find itself on an island again this season while the “secondary scoring” crew tries to figure itself out on a nightly basis.
Looking back at Sweeney’s Wednesday, you have to think he knew Krejci was leaning towards heading home; after all, you don’t talk about “center by committee” if you’re convinced your 2C will be back.
The problem, however, is that the Bruins can’t come up with a combination of coins that equals the value of Krejci’s $1, to use a somewhat elaborate currency metaphor.
Even if Charlie Coyle has a bounce-back year, I have a very hard time believing that a middle of Bergeron - Coyle - Nosek/Foligno is more productive than Bergeron - Krejci - Coyle.
And therein lies the problem for the Bruins: they have a number of players who are versatile and can fill a number of roles, but do they really have a player who can come remotely close to equaling Krejci’s productivity at 2C?
It appears (as of now) that their options will be either bumping Coyle from 3C to 2C or hoping that Jack Studnicka is ready to thrive at his natural position and seize that 2C role.
Frankly, neither of those two options really screams “the Bruins have a better forward group this year!”
Most of us agree that the Bruins could still use an upgrade on defense. Suddenly, the B’s could be heading into this season with:
- A “needs help” defense.
- No more Vezina-winning goalie.
- A worse forwards corps.
Given where the Bruins find themselves in terms of a rapidly closing “win now” window, the team simply cannot afford to go into this season hoping for the best with a plug-and-play group of centers.
Krejci’s departure is reality, as is the Bruins’ cap situation; while we’d all like think about the hometown hero Jack Eichel takes, such a move isn’t likely (to put it mildly).
Instead, Sweeney needs to face facts: “center by committee” isn’t likely to win you a Stanley Cup.
Heading into last season, fans watched Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug skip town while being fed the “maybe the kids are ready to step up!” lines.
We’ve all heard about how Studnicka has had a great offseason and is rearing to go, but the Bruins simply cannot go into this season pinning their hopes on “Bergeron - Coyle/Studnicka/Nosek/Foligno/IDK/Someone/FanOfTheGame.”
What does that mean? It means the team should be looking to the trade market, at a very basic level.
The B’s were linked with Christian Dvorak of the Arizona Coyotes prior to the draft, and that may be an avenue worth revisiting.
Others have suggested Ryan Johansen, though his AAV is probably unrealistic. There are likely other options out there as well, and it’s Sweeney and Company’s job to sort them out.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Bruins fans: you’re already heading into this season with questions (mixed with optimism, to be fair) in goal and questions on defense, now with a whole bunch of secondary scoring concerns sprinkled on top.
“Center by committee” might work when you have a bunch of 2C’s ready to play up and down your lineup; it’s not likely to work quite as well when you have a bunch of 3/4C’s being asked to play further up.
To be fair to Sweeney, the Bruins probably aren’t going to find a direct replacement for Krejci’s productivity at a remotely reasonable price — ultra-reliable centers don’t exactly grow on trees.
Still, the Bruins need to find something better than “center by committee,” even if it means paying a price that hurts.
After all, we all saw what “secondary scoring issues” looked like with a player of Krejci’s caliber at 2C; I’m not sure any of us wants to see what secondary scoring looks like with this new committee.